Friday, March 13, 2009

More on Character

One question that comes to mind with all this talk about character is: Are the standards for mc likability different in children's fiction or when the mc is a child?

Even with a child we probably won't tolerate whininess or undue stupidity. But as far as character arc goes, aren't most stories about children coming of age stories in some sense or another? The character growth often seems pretty clear, or clearer than with adult characters. Children can't help growing from new experiences. It's what they're built to do.

Adults seem to have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming. And that's the set-up for the reluctant hero. (I'm a sucker for a good reluctant hero.)

Really, my question is: Do we want anything different from our child mc's than our adult mc's?

In some ways I feel our child mc's have a harder time than adult ones. They have to act like children in order to be believable, but they also have to delve into adult problems, concepts and philosophies in order to be interesting to an adult audience (which we also want from our children's literature).

And one more question: Who are your favorite child characters?

I'll start. I love Scout. And as a kid, I especially loved Kate from the Good Master.


Sarah said...

Such a good question, Lisa!

I want some sort of change in any MC. (This is bringing back elementary school English lessons: static vs. dynamic characters.) There are some anti-hero types that don't grow, but my favorite stories with them are the ones where they at least take notice: an episode of House where a patient says something that hits home.

As far as children's stories, I think the growth is often towards self-sufficiency. Since I like happy endings, many of my favorite characters won, achieved their goal, etc. Perhaps the difference is that child MC's must grow to affect their world, where adult MC's concentrate more on affecting the world and less on themselves.

I'm going to have to think about this.

Favorite child characters? (I read such old books; I rarely liked modern stories, I think because they felt like everyday life to me.) Sara Crewe and Anne of Green Gables were my top two.

Michelle said...

Mary Lennox in the Secret Garden. No question. She was unpleasant, but not exactly whiny, because she didn't really complain so much as demand! And I love Dickon too, because how could you not love a boy who tames animals?

I also have always loved Claudia Kincaid in From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. She had enough confidence from the very first paragraph to know that she wanted more from her life, and enough self esteem to believe she deserved it. She set goals (save money, recruit brother, hide in the bus, move into museum...)and she achieved them.

Lisa said...

Sarah, I totally forgot about Anne of Green Gables. I love her!